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Composer: Haydn, Joseph (1732-1809)

Fact file
Year of birth1732
Year of death1809

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Haydn, as Naxos puts it, is the subject of many paternity suits. Chamber music fans revere him as the father of the string quartet. He pioneered the a highly structured form of music where different instruments converse with each other. During the course of this conversation, the themes they play are transformed and developed, all the while training your ear to anticipate the pleasure of a return to the home key.

While Haydn didn't actually invent the term "symphony" (the word dates back at least to Gabrieli in 1597), his output of 104 symphonies transformed the genre and formed the base from which romantic and modern symphonies were derived.

Haydn did not have an easy life: the son of a wheelwright, he left the family home at six in the hope of a musical career via the church choir, from which he was unceremoniously dismissed when his voice broke. He was frequently hungry, and it was not until 1761 that he achieved stable employment with the Esterházy family, a job which was to last over thirty years.

In spite of his hard life and bouts of debilitating illness, his music is suffused with good humour, and he was respected by his contemporaries as a model of good character.

David Karlin, December 2008

Click here for a page of Haydn Trivia...

Biography of Haydn by the BBC's Terry Barfoot

Haydn trained as a choirboy at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna before embarking upon his long career. His first appointment was as music director at Lukavec, but financial problems soon closed Count Morzin’s orchestra and terminated this employment.

In 1761 Haydn entered the service of the Esterházy family, where he remained for thirty years. Beginning as Vice-Kapellmeister, he took over the leading position in 1766, succeeding Gregor Werner. In the early years of this service Haydn’s orchestra comprised at least six violins, three violas, three cellos and two double-basses, together with pairs of oboes and horns, with other instruments added occasionally.

His relationship with the Esterházy establishment, first at Eisenstadt and from 1767 at Esterháza (the new palace modelled on Versailles), enabled Haydn to view his isolation positively: "Cut off from the world, I was forced to become original." His development was crucial to the evolution of the classical style. While he did not invent the symphony or the string quartet, more than any other composer he guided these genres from infancy to maturity. It is hardly surprising that he inspired Mozart and other composers beyond.

The palace of Esterháza contained an opera house, and after 1777 opera became Haydn’s priority for several years. The "heroic-comic drama" Orlando paladino of 1782 gained an international reputation, with performances in Vienna and Prague. Mixing seria and buffa styles, dramatic recitatives and dazzling arias combine with comic characterisation; the bluff squire Pasquino even has a patter catalogue aria. Other fine operas include La vera constanza (True Constancy) and La fedeltà premiata (Loyalty Rewarded).

Haydn composed more than a hundred symphonies and was imaginatively independent, his works invariably having special personalities. Several begin with slow movements in ‘church sonata’ style, including No. 22, The Philosopher (1764) and No. 49, La Passione (1768). He also contributed to the expressive Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) style, in which emotional intensity reacted against the more superficial galant style, as for instance in Symphony No. 44, Trauer (1772). Meanwhile, Haydn became famous throughout Europe, and in 1785 he received a prestigious commission from "Le Concert de la Loge olympique". The resulting Paris Symphonies (Nos. 82-87) were his most ambitious and sophisticated to date.

In 1790 Prince Nikolaus died, and Haydn was allowed to leave. The impresario Johann Peter Salomon travelled in person to invite him to London. He accepted, and between 1791 and 1795 composed twelve symphonies, Nos. 93-104, which are his crowning achievement. His finales particularly are miracles of intellectual organisation, combining with music’s most pointed wit.

Haydn led the way in developing the string quartet. Towards the end of his life he told his publisher that his acknowledged quartets should begin with Opus 9 (1771), omitting the first eighteen compositions. There is close development of the music, rather than the easier entertainment style. He also claimed his Opus 33 quartets (1781) were written 'in a new and special way'. Although mere sales talk, the boast is justified by the music, which inspired Mozart to return to quartet writing with a series of compositions that he dedicated to Haydn. By now there was a sophisticated public who might perform and hear the music over and over again, whereas symphonies could seldom be repeated. The process of understanding a continuum of developing sounds was quite new, and it was why these years brought music of such lucidity.

The ‘Tost’ Quartets, Opus 54, 55 and 64, were composed for the Viennese merchant Johann Tost, who had worked at Esterháza. The boundaries between drawing room and concert room were disappearing, and the Opus 71 and Opus 74 use the same devices, including slow introductions, as the London symphonies. The final quartets came after Haydn’s return to Vienna. In 1797 the Opus 76 set was composed, two years before the two last completed quartets, Opus 77. How fitting that the same patron, Prince Lobkowitz, simultaneously commissioned the first quartets, Opus 18, of the young Beethoven.

The keyboard sonatas display a variety of forms and moods, as well as taxing the dexterity of the player. Haydn’s London visits yielded his finest sonatas, including the marvelous C major, whose opening Allegro is symphonic in scale and scope.

The trip to London, which included the experience of seeing the sea for the first time in his life, released a new flow of creativity from Haydn. Following his return to Vienna, he remained at the summit of his creative powers, in trios and quartets, the magnificent oratorios The Creation and The Seasons, and the six Masses for Princess Marie Josepha Hermenegild. His final years, however, brought the misfortune of ill health and little creative work was possible. He died in Vienna on 31st May 1809, aged 77.

© Terry Barfoot/BBC

List of works
Piano Trio no. 25 in E minor, Hob XV:12String Quartet no. 67 in F major, Op.77 No.2, Hob III:82Piano Trio no. 41 in E flat minor, Hob XV:31String Quartet no. 62 in C major "The Emperor", Op.76 no.3, Hob III:77String Quartet no. 27 in D major, Op.20 no.4, Hob III:34String Quartet no. 30 in E flat major “The Joke”, Op.33 no.2, Hob III:38String Quartet no. 53 in D major “The Lark”, Op.64 no.5, Hob III:63Piano Concerto in D major, Hob XVIII:11Symphony no. 83 in G minor "The Hen"String Quartet no. 66 in G major "Lobkowitz", Op.77 no.1, Hob III:81String Quartet no. 64 in D major “Largo”, Op.76 no.5, Hob III:79Piano Trio in G major, "Gypsy Rondo," Hob XV:25String Quartet no. 41 in D "The Frog", Op.50 no.6,Hob III:49String Quartet no. 61 in D minor "Fifths," Op.76 no.2, Hob III:76Cello Concerto no. 1 in C major, Hob VIIb:1Symphony no. 99 in E flat majorTrumpet Concerto in E flat major, Hob VIIe:1 Symphony no. 49 in F minor "La Passione"Symphony no. 6 in D major "Le Matin"Symphony no. 104 in D major "London"Symphony no. 101 in D major "The Clock"The Creation (Die Schöpfung), Hob XXI:2Flute Trio no. 1 in C major, "London", Hob IV:1String Quartet no. 52 in E flat major, Op.64 no.6, Hob III:64Mass no. 11 in D Minor “Nelson Mass” or “Missa in Angustiis", Hob XXII:11Symphony no. 26 in D minor "Lamentatione"String Quartet no. 60 in G major, Op.76 no.1, Hob III:75Piano Sonata in B minor, Hob XVI:32Symphony no. 22 in E flat major "The Philosopher"Symphony no. 88 in G majorSymphony no. 44 in E minor "Mourning" (Trauersymphonie)Symphony no. 94 in G major "Surprise"String Quartet no. 26 in G minor, Op.20 no.3, Hob III:33Symphony no. 60 in C major, "Il distratto",Symphony no. 1 in D majorSymphony no. 5 in A majorSymphony no. 7 in C major, "Le Midi"Symphony no. 8 in G major "Le Soir"Symphony no. 9 in C majorSymphony no. 13 in D majorSymphony no. 21 in A majorPiano Trio no. 30 in F major, Hob XV:17Piano Trio no. 44 in E major, Hob XV:28Mass no. 10 in C major, “Paukenmesse” (In Time of War), Hob XXII:9Piano Sonata in C major, Hob XVI:48String Quartet in F major, Op.3 no.5, Hob III:17Symphony no. 103 in E flat major "Drumroll" (Paukenwirbel)Symphony no. 102 in B flat majorPiano Sonata in E minor Hob XVI:34Violin Concerto no. 1 in C major, Hob VIIa:1String Quartet no. 25 in C major, Op.20 no.2, Hob III:32Symphony no. 96 in D major, "Miracle"Piano sonata in D major, Hob XVI:37String Quartet no. 59 in G minor, "The Rider", Op.74 no.3, Hob III:74String Quartet no. 31 in B minor, Op.33 no.1, Hob III:37String Quartet no. 32 in C major, "The Bird", Op.33 no.3, Hob III:39String Quartet no. 29 in G major, Op.33 no.5, Hob III:41Symphony no. 59 in A major "Fire Symphony"Symphony no. 98 in B flat majorSymphony no. 93 in D majorDie Feuersbrunst, Hob XXIXb:ASymphony no. 64 in A major "Tempora mutantur"Symphony no. 90 in C majorPiano Sonata in E flat major, Hob XVI:49Symphony no. 87 in A majorSymphony No. 85 in B flat major "La Reine"The Seasons (Die Jahreszeiten) Hob XXI:3Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major for oboe, bassoon, violin and cello, Hob I:105String Quartet no. 63 in B flat major "Sunrise," Op.76 no.4, Hob III:78String Quartet no. 46 in F minor “The Razor”, Op.55 no.2, Hob III:61Piano Sonata in B flat major, Hob XVI:41Violin Concerto no. 4 in G major, Hob VIIa:4Orlando PaladinoString Quartet no. 55 in D major, Op.71 no.2, Hob III:70Il Mondo della LunaPiano Concerto in C major, Hob XVIII:1Piano Concerto in G major, Hob XVIII:4Symphony no. 30 in C major “Alleluia”Symphony no. 31 in D major “Hornsignal”Symphony no. 39 in G minorSymphony no. 45 in F sharp minor “Farewell”Symphony no. 53 in D major “L'Impériale”Symphony no. 57 in D majorSymphony no. 63 in C major “La Roxelane”Symphony no. 65 in A majorSymphony no. 68 in B flat majorSymphony no. 72 in D majorSymphony no. 77 in B flat majorSymphony no. 82 in C major “The Bear”Symphony no. 86 in D majorSymphony no. 91 in E flat majorPiano Trio no. 28 in D major, Hob XV:16Piano Trio no. 29 in G major, Hob XV:15Piano Trio no. 40 in F sharp minor, Hob XV:26Piano Trio no. 43 in C major, Hob XV:27String Quartet no. 23 in F minor, Op.20 no.5, Hob III:35Mass no. 13 in B flat major, “Creation Mass”, Hob XXII:13Mass no. 2 in F major, “Missa brevis”, Hob XXII:1Mass no. 7 in B flat major, “Kleine Orgelmesse”, Hob XXII:7L'anima del filosofoShe never told her love, Hob XXVIa:34The spirit's song, Hob XXVIa:41Sailor´s songPiano Sonata in D major, Hob XVI:24Orfeo ed Euridice, or The Soul of the PhilosopherThe Seven Last Words of Christ (for string quartet)Piano Sonata in G major, Hob XVI:40Piano Sonata in C major, Hob XVI:50Piano Sonata no. 57 in F major, Hob XVI:47Scena di BereniceThe Storm (Der Sturm) Hob XXIV a8Canzonettas, Hob XXVIaIl marchese: Navicella da vento agitateLo speziale: Amore nel mio pettoOrlando Paladino: Aure chete, Verdi alloriFlute Trio no. 2 in G major, Hob IV:2Flute Trio no. 3 in G major, Hob IV:3Flute Trio no. 4 in G major, "London Trio," Hob IV:4Insanae et vanae curaeThe Creation (Die Schöpfung): Prelude, Representation of Chaos Hob XXI:2Fidelity, Hob XXVIa:30Arianna a Naxos, cantata, Hob XXVIb:2L'anima del filosofo: Del mio core il voto estremoArmida: overtureL'Anima del Filosofo, Ossia Orfeo ed Euridice, Hob.XXVIII:13: overtureDivertimento in G major, Hob.IV:7Divertimento in E flat major "Das Echo", Hob II:39Divertimento in G major, Hob II:G1Divertimento in G major, Hob II:3Keyboard Sonata in G Major, Op. 37 no. 1, Hob. XVI:40 Armida: Vedi, se t'amoIl ritorno di Tobia, Hob XX1:1 : OvertureDivertimento in B flat major for string yrio, Hob. V:8